The Magnificent Archibalds is the 11th episode of the second season and the 29th overall.
For the rest of the country, Thanksgiving is when families come together to give thanks. But on the Upper East Side, the holiday thankfully returns to its roots: lying, manipulation, and betrayal. And from what we hear, just like the Indians, someone else is being pushed out of their home.
Thanksgiving in the Waldorf household gets off to a rough start as Blair finds that her mother's boyfriend is getting in the way of her favorite traditions. Meanwhile, Lily finds herself trying to broker a peace treaty between Rufus and Jenny, and Serena is not quite ready to come clean with Aaron about her complicated past. Vanessa and Chuck come to Nate's aid when he is again being forced to confront his father's crimes. Finally, Eric discovers a secret that Bart has been keeping from Lily.
At Constance, Blair complains to Serena about Cyrus' family being in town for Thanksgiving and that the Rose family has a restaurant Thanksgiving dinner. She also sadly mentions that Harold isn't coming to town but she still wants to try for a perfect holiday. She invites Serena to come help her bake pie the next day before dinner, but Serena says she can only help for a few hours because Aaron is coming to meet her family. Dan approaches them at that moment and asks if either of them have seen Jenny because Rufus is unable to get ahold of her. Serena says she's been at their apartment a lot lately and Dan asks her to encourage her to talk to Rufus. They wish each other a good holiday and part ways. While walking away, he bumps into Nate but blows him off. Afterwards, Nate runs into Chuck, who asks why he hasn't been around lately. He asks why he cares and Chuck says he thought having nothing would teach him who his real friends are. Nate answers that it has and walks away. Meanwhile, Jenny and Eric meet with a lawyer to get more information on emancipation. She explains that after the request is filed, the state opens up an investigation into Jenny's home life to find proof of parental wrongdoing. Jenny takes the papers to authorize the investigation and leaves with Eric.
At the loft, Dan asks Vanessa what she's doing for Thanksgiving. She says she's going to spend it by herself, eating a frozen dinner. He invites her to come over instead but Vanessa doesn't want to see Jenny. Dan assures her that Jenny isn't coming, then says that she isn't spending it with Nate either. Vanessa then accepts his invitation. Rufus bursts in at that moment and says that Agnes' mother hasn't seen Jenny in a week, since Agnes has been away for a modeling gig. He goes to call the cops but Dan tells him about Jenny spending time with Eric. At the VDW's, Lily and Bart arrive home early from a vacation. As they walk in, Lily gets a call from Rufus; who wants to know if Jenny has been there for the past week. Confused, Lily says that she's sure that she hasn't been; but then notices her things piled up by the couch. She tells Rufus she'll call him back and hangs up. Meanwhile, Nate and Anne enter an apartment owned by a friend who is away at the time. When they enter, they're greeted by Howard; who has returned from Dominica. He explains how good his life is now and that he wants the two of them to come join him. Anne admits that she knew about his invitation to come with him and that she wants to go, but only if Nate goes as well. Howard pleads with Nate to come, but he doesn't answer. Elsewhere, Lily and Rufus take a walk, where she tells him everything she found out; including that Eric must have been sneaking her in and Serena wasn't even aware. Rufus asks to talk to her, but Lily asks to talk to her first and find out what's going on with her. Rufus mulls it over and agrees to let Lily speak with her.
That night at the Waldorf's, Blair directs Dorota on making Harold's pie while on the phone with Serena, who is with Aaron, but concerned about his fidelity. Blair warns her to put herself first and Serena tells her to be more open to Cyrus' traditions. At the VDW's, Eric arrives home to find Bart in the apartment. He immediately texts Jenny not to come up, as Bart and Lily are home early. However, he hears her phone buzz, as she left it there. He's able to swipe it before Bart can see it, and listens as Bart asks if he knows a boy named Ben Shern. Eric says he's the captain of Jonathan's swim team, and Bart replies that he should ask Jonathan what he was doing Monday night. Eric then sees Chuck in his room and asks how and why Bart would know what Jonathan is doing. Chuck explains that like him, Bart has a PI on retainer at all times. Eric says that that's kind of creepy to hold over friends and family, and Chuck assures him that Bart's people work quietly on the down low. Eric asks what exactly Bart knows about him and Chuck asks how much he really wants to know. Meanwhile, at Aaron's studio, Aaron announces to Serena over a home cooked meal that he is officially only dating her. Pleasantly surprised at this news, Serena says that if she knew they were celebrating, she would have brought champagne. He says he's glad she didn't because he's completely sober and wants to be around people with the same mindset. She lies and says that while she used to party, she doesn't anymore, and Aaron is glad to hear it. At the VDW's, Bart tells Lily that the kids should tell them things before they get caught and that she should ground Eric. She argues that the situation is extreme but as they talk, Eric comes out and tries to leave. Lily tells him that they know Jenny has been staying there and that he should bring her up so they can talk.
At the Waldorf's, Blair goes down to the kitchen to find Cyrus eating a slice of her pie. After a brief conversation with him, she runs into Eleanor. She tries to explain that she feels Cyrus is taking over everything but Eleanor tells her that the three of them are a family now and she needs to get with the program quickly. Hurt, Blair runs upstairs and bumps into Dorota. After talking with her, she learns that Cyrus proposed at dinner to Eleanor and they are planning to tell the whole family at Thanksgiving dinner. Back at the VDW's, Lily tells Jenny that she spoke to Rufus and he agreed to let her stay with them for a few days. She offers to help her talk to him, and Jenny thanks her but says she has no idea how he's been. Lily replies that she really does belong at home with him for at least the next few years. Jenny thanks her and excuses herself to get some rest. As she walks away, Lily sees her purse and grabs it to bring to her. As she does so, she sees the papers from the lawyer and sees that Jenny is pursuing emancipation.
The next day, Rufus and Dan grocery shop for dinner. Rufus admits he misses her a lot and he's depressed she isn't coming to dinner. They then run into Aaron, who is picking up something to bring to the VDW's. Dan makes a comment to Aaron about Serena's life being complicated, which Aaron doesn't understand. While trying to explain, he mentions the situation with Georgina; which Aaron plays off by pretending to know. He excuses himself and walks away. At the Waldorf's, Blair tries to confront Eleanor about not telling her about the engagement before anyone else. Eleanor pretends she doesn't know what she's talking about and goes to check the reservations for dinner. Offended, Blair tells Dorota that they're leaving since she clearly won't be missed and they leave the apartment. Meanwhile, Nate goes to the art gallery to return a box set to Rufus. While there, he runs into Vanessa; who asks why he didn't just bring it to the loft. Nate admits that Dan likes him about as much as she does, so that probably wasn't a good idea. He admits he somehow alienated everyone in his life and asks her to give the set to Rufus. He tells her take care of herself and walks away. At the VDW's, Serena makes Chuck promise to behave in front of Aaron; including that she's a party girl. Chuck deducts that she lied to Aaron about her past, but she denies doing that exactly. He gives her his word, then goes upstairs to meet with Eric in Bart's study. Aaron then arrives in the apartment and he tells her that Dan said something weird about a girl named Georgina when he saw him. Flustered, Serena chalks it up to jealousy and tries to change the subject. At the loft, Rufus gets a call from Lily; who tells him that she has something important to talk to him about and that they should do it in person. When they hang up, Rufus tells Dan that they're leaving and to cancel his plans with Vanessa. At the gallery, Vanessa is about to answer her phone when Dan calls but is stopped by an FBI agent, who wants to talk to her about Nate.
Back at the VDW's, Chuck helps Eric unlock Bart's safe. While they look through it, Chuck gets a call from Vanessa, who tells him that Nate seriously needs their help. Chuck initially blows it off but then decides to take her seriously. He leaves Eric alone at the safe and once Chuck is gone, he discovers several thick files labeled with his own name, one with Serena's name, and one with Lily's. Meanwhile, Blair and Dorota wander the city aimlessly. Dorota dodges numerous calls from Eleanor, then suggests that they go feed the ducks in the park. Blair thinks about it and decides they can do that, but warns her that if she even looks like she's having a little fun, they're leaving. At the VDW's, a caterer passes around glasses of champagne and Lily is surprised when Serena turns hers down, not knowing that she's doing so to impress Aaron. Upstairs, Eric shows Jenny the files and all the personal things they contain. Jenny apologizes for what he's going through, then asks if he's seen her emancipation papers, which are suddenly missing. Lily then calls up and tells them to come downstairs and be social. Downstairs, Rufus and Dan arrive. Bart is annoyed that Lily invited them, but says nothing. Dan goes over to Aaron, who accuses him of lying about Serena. At the same time, Lily shows Rufus the papers and he's shocked. As he's asking where Jenny is, she comes downstairs. In Serena's room, Aaron and Dan come in. Dan asks what he lied about and Serena answers that they should talk privately about who said what to whom. He falsely takes responsibility for lying and Aaron tells him to be honest about him having a problem with his relationship with Serena. Aaron then leaves to go to the Waldorf's Thanksgiving and Serena apologizes to Dan about throwing him under the bus like that. Dan gets over it, and encourages her to tell Aaron the truth because he'll find the truth out eventually. Eric then enters the room carrying all the files.
At the gallery, Nate goes to meet Vanessa, Chuck, and the FBI agent. Vanessa explains that the FBI knows Howard is in the city and they're anticipating him committing crimes bigger than embezzlement and fraud: such as kidnapping and extortion. The agent explains that when Howard arrived in Dominica, he had limited money that he wasted on living the way he always had: expensively and now he's broke. Nate asks why Howard would ask them to come with him if he has no money because neither to they, at the moment. Chuck reminds him that the van der Bilt's do, and Nate wonders why they would pay for them all to live in Dominica because they hate his dad; and Vanessa reasons that maybe Howard is looking to be paid to leave without them. The agent confirms that Howard has been trying to get in touch with the van der Bilt's and that they didn't tell Nate or Anne because they weren't sure they were aware of what was going on. He leaves to give them some privacy and Nate admits that this is all too much. Vanessa tells him that Howard can still get away if that's what he wants, but he also has the chance to end the drama with his father right now. He asks how, and Chuck answers that he could turn Howard in. At the VDW's, Jenny gives a brief history of her life the past few weeks while trying to explain to Rufus how she ended up there. He tells her that he's not angry anymore because he misses her too much and that he loves her. He finishes by saying he'll give her what she wants and won't stand in the way of her emancipation but she can't make him stop loving her. She says she's sorry as she takes the papers and leaves the apartment. Rufus and Dan follow her out and right after, Lily confronts Bart about the files that Eric and Serena told her about. He tries to explain that he's trying to protect them but Lily doesn't fall for it. The three of them grab their coats and leave the apartment.
Back at the Archibald family friend apartment, Nate arrives back to find Howard dashing to get everything ready for them to leave immediately. Nate asks if he thinks his plan of holding him and Anne ransom is going to work, and Howard confesses that not all the money would be for him, that he would give them some too. Nate says that there are different ways to get their life back, without committing crimes, and that the FBI is on their way over now. He asks Howard to either be a man and turn himself in or ruin their relationship forever by running away. Elsewhere, Eric and Lily eat fries at their annual Thanksgiving diner. Lily wonders what errand Serena went to do, and Eric says she's probably going to burn her file, which she took with her. He then admits he read her file and found out she was in a mental institution just like he was. She confesses that she's never been willing to really talk about it and he says he's ready to talk about it when she is. Lily asks if he wants to have a real Thanksgiving dinner and he asks what she has in mind. She mysteriously says to come with her and they leave the diner. At the Waldorf's, Serena arrives to see Aaron but finds everyone trying to find Blair. Eleanor asks her to find out where she is, which she does. Afterwards, she admits to Aaron that she lied, not Dan, about her past. She gives him her file to read and tells him to let her know if he still wants to be with her afterwards.
Elsewhere, Blair and Dorota run into a cold and tearstained Jenny on the street. She admits what the day has brought, and Blair tells her that's she's lucky because her dad loves her immensely. She talks about how her own family doesn't love her that much because they don't even care that she didn't come to dinner. Jenny, seeing Eleanor pull up in a cab, tells Blair she's wrong. Eleanor comes up and asks Blair to come home with her so she can show her what she's been waiting to surprise her with. Blair thinks about it and agrees to go home, but only if Jenny goes to her home. Eleanor agrees that that's a good idea and helps Jenny into the cab to drop her off. Back at the Archibald family friend's, Howard, having made up his mind, kisses Anne and then hugs Nate. He says he loves them both and opens the door to turn himself in to the FBI. Anne cries for him not to, and breaks down in Nate's arms as Howard is escorted out by agents.
Later that night, Nate and Anne officially get their house and possessions back. Chuck and Vanessa stop by to see him, and Nate thanks them both for helping him out. Chuck gives them a minute alone and Vanessa admits that she didn't want him to leave town. She also confesses that she still has feelings for him but doesn't know how he feels about Jenny. Nate replies that he hasn't heard from Jenny in weeks and asks if she wants to hang out sometime. She accepts and goes home. Chuck then approaches Nate and admits he's glad he's staying too. Nate thanks him and they decide to go get drunk together. At the Waldorf's, Blair arrives home with Eleanor to find Harold waiting for her. Shocked, she hugs him but then confusedly asks if that was the surprise because she thought Eleanor and Cyrus were getting engaged. Everyone turns to them, and Eleanor says that they are; but she needed to get Harold's approval before she told everyone. Cyrus says it's time for a celebration and Harold brings out his famous pie. Blair smiles and says she's ready for some new traditions. At the loft, Dan and Rufus arrive to find Jenny waiting for them. She rips up the papers and tells Rufus that she loves him and that she doesn't want to not be his daughter. The three share a family hug. At the VDW's, Aaron brings Serena her file back and says he didn't need to read it because anything she wants to tell him, she'll reveal on her own. He says he wants to know her, no matter what she's done or how long ago. Back at the loft, Eric and Lily arrive. Rufus asks what they're doing there and Lily admits that she couldn't think of somewhere that felt more like home. Vanessa also arrives and she and Jenny make up. They all begin to cook Thanksgiving dinner and Dan tells Jenny that they've been keeping her mail in a pile. She decides to go through it later and goes to help Rufus. Vanessa notices a letter that came for Jenny from Nate. Elsewhere, Nate and Chuck ride in Chuck's limo, drinking and laughing together. At the VDW's, Aaron and Serena talk happily together. In a different limo outside the Humphrey loft, Bart calls his PI, Andrew Tyler, and tells him that he wants to know why Lily was institutionalized. Back at the loft, Vanessa excuses herself to call her parents. Once she's alone, it's revealed that she stole the letter to Jenny from Nate. She reads it, and learns he had real feelings for Jenny, but that he didn't know what to do about them because of the situation.
- Blake Lively as Serena van der Woodsen
- Leighton Meester as Blair Waldorf
- Penn Badgley as Dan Humphrey
- Chace Crawford as Nate Archibald
- Ed Westwick as Chuck Bass
- Jessica Szohr as Vanessa Abrams
- Taylor Momsen as Jenny Humphrey
- Kelly Rutherford as Lily van der Woodsen
- Matthew Settle as Rufus Humphrey
- Margaret Colin as Eleanor Waldorf
- Wallace Shawn as Cyrus Rose
- Zuzanna Szadkowski as Dorota Kishlovsky
- Connor Paolo as Eric van der Woodsen
- Robert John Burke as Bart Bass
- John Shea as Harold Waldorf
- Francie Swift as Anne Archibald
- Sam Robards as Howard "The Captain" Archibald
- John Patrick Amedori as Aaron Rose
- Reasons to Sing by The Crash
- I'm a Slave 4 U by Britney Spears
- My Only Offer by Mates of State
- Bad Man's World by Jenny Lewis
- Danger! by The Sounds of Arrows
Serena: You can't get the prize if you don't compete.
Blair: There are so many things wrong with that sentence.
Dan: Hey, have either of you seen Jenny?
Blair: Well if she's hiding from you she has better taste than I thought.
Blair: A woman needs to be with a man who thinks of only her. Everything else is a non-starter.
Chuck (to Serena): You have my word. Whatever that's worth.
Serena (on alcohol): Mom, no, I'm only 17!
Lily: Well, that's never stopped you.
Dan (to Serena): If there's one thing that we've learned this past year, it's that around here, the truth always comes out.
Rufus (to Jenny): I'm willing to let you go if that's what it takes to get you back.
Nate: Dad, I love you, but if you can't do the right thing then I can't respect you.
Blair: You're lucky. You have a family who fights for you. Mine doesn't even care if I'm there.
Jenny: Your mom loves you in her own way, Blair.
Blair: But the way your father loves you... I've never had that. My own dad, as sweet as he is, isn't here. Your father would go anywhere for you, anytime. I know because sometimes I've even made it happen.
- The episode title is based off the movie The Magnificent Ambersons.
- More photos of Serena, taken by Aaron, appear in his studio.
- This is one of the few episodes where Blair is seen with painted nails.
- It's revealed that Lily was 19 when she was institutionalized.